Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome of the ankle is similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome of the wrist. Both are related to pinched nerves in a confined space. It is commonly mis-diagnosed as plantar fasciitis.
Symptoms include pain throughout the ankle and numbness on the bottom of the foot. Tingling on the base of the foot and heel are very common. The condition becomes worse with standing or walking for long periods, and commonly worsens at night.
The tarsal tunnel carries a nerve called the posterior tibial nerve through a space surrounded by bones and tough tissue. This space can sometimes get very tight, and the tunnel gets compressed. This results in pinching of the tibial nerve, which can be a very painful condition. An ankle sprain can cause the nerve compression, as can foot characteristics such as flat feet. Other physical conditions which can cause swelling, such as diabetes, can lead to tarpal tunnel syndrome. Close examination of the tarpal tunnel area can often re-create the symptoms and lead to the proper diagnosis.
Treatments of the disorder are fairly straightforward. Icing, rest, and bandaging are usually helpful. Anti-inflammatory medicine is normally a key part of the relief process. A cortisone injection around the nerve area is sometimes done as well. In extreme cases, a surgical procedure known as tarsal tunnel release can be performed to eliminate the compression on the nerve. This is a fairly simple procedure, but is usually only done as a last-resort.
Proper footwear is a staple of the recovery from and prevention of tarsal tunnel syndrome. Orthotics can be helpful for this and other similar foot conditions. Some stretching exercises can be beneficial as well.
Images courtesy: Ambro/Freedigitalphotos.net